Friday, October 22, 2010

Is the DESE Holding MVRCS to the Same Standards?

This letter was emailed to Jeff Wulfson at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on October 22, 2010.

Dear Mr. Wulfson;

In following up on my emails to Mr. Rick Veilleux (that you have been copied on), please note that Mr. Veilleux appears to be hesitant in replying to my requests for clarification on the transportation issue. It is my understanding that MVRCS is currently using the 770 Salem Street facility as its ‘hub’ and therefore denying transportation to that facility for families that are within 2 driven miles. It is also my understanding that these students must be transported to the ‘hub’ and are then permitted to take a bus to the High School. Further, if I understand the current policy correctly, High School students are charged the $200.00 transportation fee if they reside outside of 2 driven miles from the ‘hub’ and then an additional $100.00 for transportation from the 770 Salem Street facility to the High School. I would just like you to confirm that this is the current policy and, more importantly, that this is within the laws, regulations, and guidelines established by your agency.

In reviewing materials I have come across the following note which was copied from the DESE website regarding term limits:

“In brief, the term limits debate derives from the bylaws that the School proposed with its original charter application that the original members of the Board of Trustees would serve until they resigned. Exh. 1, page 44. See also Exh. 1, pages 8-9, 20 (identifying founding members). Changing this provision was a condition of the State Board’s 2004 charter renewal, and an agreement on three consecutive 3-year terms (9 years total) was slowly reached. Exh. 9 (Department’s approval letter dated 3/23/07). See also Exh. 192 (former Commissioner Driscoll’s September 2006 update to State Board).”

Unfortunately, the document, link, or school that is being referenced was not referenced within my notes. As you are the main contact for MVRCS and would be aware of any conditions imposed upon them, do you know if this was this in reference to MVRCS or if the dates discussed would align with the schools renewal dates. If it does not, is there a reason as to why one school may have had that included in their renewal while no such condition has been required of MVRCS.

I would also like to draw your attention to a document regarding Hughes Charter School and the conditions imposed on them for their 2004 charter renewal ( It seems as though their charter renewal was contingent upon meeting conditions that addressed AYP, potential conflict of interest laws, the hiring of a consultant, incorporating term limits for Board of Trustees into the schools by-laws, and address issues pertaining to an audit that was conducted by the Office of the State Auditor. It is disturbing to think that while the DESE has been contacted by numerous parents regarding similar issues and concerns within MVRCS, that the DESE has not placed any conditions or such requirements upon them. I must admit, that conditions and requirements may have been placed upon MVRCS that I have been unable to locate on your website and I would welcome you to forward any such document to me.

It was noted in your site visit that the school does not always follow the law regarding the Executive Meetings yet it does not seem as though any conditions or requirements were placed upon the school. In reviewing documents specifically regarding MVRCS, I was able to locate reference to their charter renewal and a Board of Educator members question regarding the schools failure to follow the Open Meeting Laws. Mary Street simply stated that it was the responsibility of the Attorney General to enforce the law. It would seem obvious that the Board of Trustees refuses to follow the laws that govern them and one must question 1. Why they refuse to do so, specifically what are they attempting to keep from the parents, and 2. If the DESE filed a complaint or conducted any follow-up with the Attorney General to ensure that the Board was in compliance.
           A side note regarding the Boards recluctence to follow the laws that govern Board of Trustees and Open Meetings, it has been mentioned to us that Neil Kinnon 'threatened' to stop opening the Board meetings up to the public. Apparently during the last meeting he was not happy with the direction the meeting was going and made a statement to the effect that they 'didn't have to open the meetings' to the public.
My final question would be in questioning how one would go about requesting a financial audit (similar to the one conducted at Hughes Charter) be conducted on the financial records of MVRCS. In reviewing their Annual Reports and their Financial Reports filed with the DESE, I have noted a number of discrepancies (yet I must admit I have no experience or knowledge within the financial field) and questions. As you may be aware, the school recently refused to release their payroll records as required under the FOIA and/or the Massachusetts Public Record law but rather chose to take out a paid advertisement listing their top 20 highest paid employees. I find the data provided questionable as a number of key personnel were not included. Again, their failure to follow the law has caused me to question the reason(s) they are unwilling to do so. It was also noted in the audit conducted on the Hughes Charter School that the school was reprimanded for not abiding by the competitive bid process that is required of them. I would question whether MVRCS follows these same laws and regulations, especially going forward as they begin construction on their new facility. Finally, I draw your attention to the Inspector General’s review of Assabet Valley Regional Charter School (@ , specifically Finding 2 (page 3) where the school was found to be excessive in their spending. As MVRCS financials will show, the list of expenditures (year ending 2008) that appear excessive in comparison to other districts include, ‘Instructional Leadership’ travel expense of $67,785.00, ‘Professional Development travel and other expenses’ of $77,468, Administration ‘Recruitment/Advertising’ of $91,304.00, ‘Travel, Dues, and other expenses’ of $48, 418.00 and ‘Fringe’ benefits of $990,587.00. These are just a few examples from one financial report that have caused me to question the financial management and integrity of the financial reports being submitted.

In closing, I must question why it does not appear as though MVRCS is being held to the same standards, laws, regulations, expectations that govern our charter schools and schools in general. I thank you for your time and attention to these matters and look forward to your response to the same.


  1. Did the school REALLY spend almost $200,000.00 on travel and 'other' expenses (whatever THAT means)???? Where are they going and what are they doing there?
    What are fringe benefits? Can I get some?
    Recruitment and Advertising - 91,304?? Is it because of the high turnover rate? I checked out Malden, they don't have any recruitment expenses!

  2. If there fringe benefits are almost $1 million why is it that they don't have to detail what they are? I don't understand this at all unless it's like the perks that the big banks have given to all the CEO's. Unbelievable!!!!!!!

  3. Per the line item description it is for:
    "Employee unemployment, health, and life insurance premiums or payments, and worker's compensation or other benefits, paid by the school for the benefit of the employee."
    But the FY09 report filed with the DESE is not published yet. According to the schools annual report for fy09 the group insurance is apprx 779,000.00 and 'fringe benefits' (with no further description) is appx. 27,000.00.
    I'm not sure what it is but fringe benefits are not the same as incentives compensation (which is estimated at 540,184.00 for fy10). The difficult part is that the DESE only has FY07 and FY08 online so it is difficult to determine if the schools annual report aligns with the numbers the DESE has.

  4. The $27,000.00 could be the loan forgiveness for Dr. McCleary.

  5. No, the 40,000 had a 3 year forgiveness which isn't 27,000.00. Besides, that would go into 'Incentive Compensation', not fringe benefits.
    Also, saw a 'stipend' listed but not sure what or who that was for (could have been something else).

  6. Funny, they were going to charge Brenda Boute a few hundred dollars to produce the payroll records, and if you ask for a copy of the minutes, they charge for it. YET, they have an expense of $149,244 for "Salaries for administrative support personnel who prepare, transcribe, systematize or preserve communications, records and transactions". Wonder who does that job?

  7. Wow, and then another $136,646.00 for "Salaries for administrative support personnel who prepare, transcribe, systematize or preserve communications, records and transactions' under Instructional services. (the first one was for 'other administration'....wonder what the difference is and what or who is costing so much!

  8. Pupil Services ----
    Contracted professional services and related costs, including stipends. $12,454.00

    Contracted professional services and related costs incurred by the school; $405,000.00

    Contracted professional services and related costs, including stipends. $269,082.00

    Contracted professional services and related costs, including stipends. $243,024.00

    Contracted professional services and related costs, including stipends, for extracurricular/club activities. $119,287.00

  9. Teachers might take issue with this one...$211,099.00 for Professional Development (and that isn't including the wonderful food at the Moose or the book/article group discussion that Dr. McCleary conducts).

  10. Love these financial records....really makes you wonder as it sounds like they have a staff of 300!

  11. Per the audit report it is only 12,222 or 13,333 within any one year(loan forgiveness for Dr. McCleary):

    Also, an incentive loan of $40,000.00 was provided to the Superintendent during fiscal year 2008. The loan has a three year term, with no stated interest rate and one third will be forgiven every year that the Superintendent remains at the School. The incentive load was recorded as a note receivable in the Statement of Net Assets at June 30, 2008 and will be amortized annually over three years. The school amortized $13,333 and $12,222 of the incentive loan to the Superintendent’s compensation during the year ended June 30, 2009 and 2008, repectively.